The Dissection of the State: Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and the Politics of Aesthetics

by Marc Redfield
The Dissection of the State: Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and the Politics of Aesthetics
Marc Redfield
The German Quarterly
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The Claremont Graduate School

The Dissection of the State: Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and the Politics ofAesthetics

Gestell heil3tauch em Knochengerippe.


In recent years one frequently encounters the claim that aesthetics is an essentially, and disingenuously, political discourse. The project of cultural critique, versions of which figure so visibly in the landscape ofcontemporarycriticism,might be summed up as the attempt to demonstrate that aesthetics not only fails to transcend the purposeful machinations of power, but reinforces these machinations throughitsvery pretense to transcend them. This demystification of aesthetics has enjoyed considerable success at least in part because aesthetics, as an identifiable discipline, is soclearlya historicalphenomenon, and one which consequently can be incorporated into political narrative. The vehemence with which conservativejournalists and critics parody and decry the "politicization" ofaesthetics is doubtless in large part a tribute to the force of the demystifying narrative; for as soon as one considers, from a sociological perspective, the emergence of the aesthetic sphere over the course of the eighteenth century, it rapidly becomes obvious-particularly in the German contextsinwhich aestheticswasfirst and most elaborately theorized-that the idea, the funding, and the upkeep of a "cultural sphere" served recognizable, and quite pressing, political and class interests. The disinterestedness of aesthetics thus provides as it were a detour or disguise for various and not necessarily complementary projects: the consolation and bureaucratization of a middle class within an absolutist state; the construction of an ideological base for an eventual middle-class hegemony; the diversion of revolutionary energies; and so on.1

Any attempt to recover a political mission for aesthetics, however, risks tendentiousness if it fails to recall and examine notjustthe unwittingexternalinstrumentality ofaesthetics, but also this discourse's inherent and frequently overt politicality. Schiller's assertion that we can only approachthe"problemofpolitics" throughthe "problem of the aesthetic" ("well es die Schonheit ist, durch welche man zu der Freiheit wandert" [8]) makes for a particularly dramatic moment in the early history ofaestheticthought,butis hardlyaneccentric claim. The Schillerian development of Kantian themes into the narrative of an "asthetische Erziehung des Menschen" in a sense merelyunleashes the totalizingpower implicit in the Kritik der Urteilskraft'e location of aesthetics in the process of formalization. Since, in Kant, the particular aestheticexperience,in itsformality, claims subjectiveuniversality, aestheticjudgment easily comes to prefigure the universality of Schiller's "reine[m] idealischen Menschen" (4.2), whose full realization would take place as the emergence of the "Staat des schonen Scheins" (27.12). The acculturationorBildungofanindividualby definition models a political process, however overtly apolitical or "inward"Bildung's orientation, and despite the nonreferentiality of the aesthetic moment per see For if the nonreferentiality of the aesthetic demon-

The German Quarterly 69.1 (Winter 1996) 15

stratesthe essentialharmonyandprescriptive universality of "man," aesthetic formalization is non-referential only so as to guarantee "man" as a transcendentalreferent. And since aesthetics presupposes sensory realization, aesthetics incipiently involves the political production of "man" in the world, whether as the education of an individual or the evolution ofa community, nation, or race. Despite Heidegger's hostility to aesthetics, his elaboration of the ancient thought ofpoiesis as a mode ofbringing-forth (Her-vor-bringen) does not finally ron counter to the aesthetic tradition, precisely insofar as aesthetics presupposes its own self-production. In this sense, aesthetics may be understood as a certain culmination of the notion ofpoiesis, though aesthetics may also, as we shall see, be linked to the "modern technology" that Heidegger opposes topoiesis as a violent "challenging' (Herausfordem) to a "bringing-forth." It is one ofthetasksofthisessayto suggest that the "politics ofaesthetics" resides in the peculiarandfundamental relationofaesthetics to the technical.

At this point one needs to remark, however, that ifaesthetics is a political model, thenotionof"politics"hasitself, since Plato, been conceptualized in relation to the mimetic arts, and, more generally, to poiesis as the production or formation offonn. Tragedians are expelled from the city of philosophy because the polis itself is "a representation of the fairest and best life, which is in reality ... the truest tragedy" (Laws VII, 817b). Thus, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe insists,

the political (the City) belongs to a form of plastic art, formation and information, fiction in the strict sense.... The fact that the political is a form of plastic art in no way means that the polis is an artificial or conventional formation, but that the political belongs to the sphere oitechne in the highest sense of the term: the sense in which techne is thought as the accomplishment and the revelation ofphysis itself. (66)

As "fiction," the political is organic, as in the famous opening of Aristotle's Politics, in which "the state is a creation of nature and ... man is by nature a political animal" preciselybecause"manis the onlyanimalwhom [nature] hasendowed withthe giftofspeech" (Politics, I, ii [1253b]). One could say that, thankstolanguage, the politicalbecomesthe fulfilment ofnature(physis) in the non-natural sphere of culture ttechne). This not only means thatthe stateisconceivedas artwork, but that the community itselfis organic in essence, and discovers itself as such in the techne ofart: "Iftechne can be defmed as the sur-plus ofphysis, throughwhichphysis 'deciphers' and presents itself ... , political organicity is the surplus necessaryfora nation to present and recognize itself: And such is the political function of art" (Lacoue-Labarthe 69, emphasis in original).

Mutatis mutandis, this constellation of assumptions canbe traced through Renaissance humanism to the inverted Platonism of eighteenth-century aesthetics, and finally to the racial ideologies of the modem period.e Though, as Lacoue-Labarthe comments, nothing requires aesthetic politics to become grounded in the pseudo-biology of race, "it can very easily be taken in that direction once physis comes to be interpreted as bios,"preciselybecause ofthe "organic interpretation of the political" (69). Lacoue-Labarthe's point-that racism is "primarily, fundamentally, an aestheticism"(69)-helps one appreciate the degree to which aesthetics, in the most general sense, shaped both the official culture and the ideological energy of Nazism, less in Hitler's or his party's relation-philistine at best-to the arts per se than in their understanding of politics as the community's autoproduction in and through the spectacle of a "natural" destiny. The political thusbecomes theproductionofitselfas the totalworkofart, and thus also becomes, as Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy have argued, a violentideologization of"the absolute, self-creatingSubject" ofthe metaphysical tradition, a subject that purports to embody itself in "an immediate and absolutely'natural'essence: that ofblood and race" ("The Nazi Myth" 310). These claims represent aneffort to discovernonreductive relations between twentieth-century fascism and a Western tradition for which the fascist regimes had, to be sure, utter contempt,butin theabsenceofwhichtheyare also inconceivable. Lacoue-Labarthe's specificprojectconsists, ofcourse, in the negotiation of a relation to Heidegger, and an assessment ofthe differences andcomplicities that Heidegger's thought and career offerin relation to National Socialism. This project has as its primary rationale not the weighing ofpersonal or even philosophical guilt, butthe examination ofa thought that "canenlightenusas to thereal,orprofound, natureofNazism"(53),occasionally despite itself. As suggested in the citations above, Heidegger's meditations on techne thus take on considerable importance, offering as they do a reminder and an analysis of the intimacy between politics and aesthetics.3

I propose to return to the question of techne and technology, as Heidegger asks it, via a route that atfirst glance may seem at best improbable. However, few texts address the interleaved questions ofart, technics, and politics more overtly, closely,and strangely than does the odd parody of a sequel to Wdhelm Meisters Lehrjahre that Goethepublished,in twodifferentversions, in the 1820s as Wdhelm Meisters Wanderjahre.4 Like the second part ofFaust, this text has always been received as a social and political, ifhighly symbolic, narrative, so much so that from the 1830s to the present day readers have frequently pressed it into the service of straightforwardly politicalvisions. 5ThomasMann,forinstance, who in 1923 somewhat rashly discerned in the Meister cycle a "wunderbare Vorwegnahme deutschen Fortschreitens von der Innerlichkeit zum Objektiven, zum Politischen, zumRepublikanertum,"summedup its plot in terms that distill the essence of Bildung as a political principle: "Es beginnt mit individualistisch-abendteuemdem Selbstbildnertum und endet mit politischer Utopie. Dazwischen aber steht die Idee der Erziehung" (855-56, Mann's emphasisif The movement ofErziehung as a progression from inwardness to action and from theory to praxis is the narrative of Bildung that the Wanderjahre represents as the elaboration of a notion of art as techne, in the course of which aesthetics emerges as a highly effective, and profoundly unstable, political force.


Before turning to the ways in which Goethe's novel associates aesthetic totalization with technical and political power, we should recall the extent to which the Wanderjahre atleast appears to exceed and destabilize such associations before they canevenbeproposed.The plotline towhich Mann refers-the story of the eponymous Wilhelm Meister-is a shred of Bildung woven into a complex and not in any way obviously unified tapestry, since the Wanderjahre's melange of novellas, letters, speeches,joumalentries, technicalwriting, poetry, and aphorisms, not to mention its overall symbolic density and narrative fragmentariness, make it difficult to assimilate to any generic standard, even one as capacious as that provided by the Romantic idea of the novel. It is not even certain what ought to count as Wdhelm Meisters Wanderjahre and what ought not, since, according to Eckermann, Goethe attached collections of maxims to the second and third of the text's three books simply in order to have more material to give the publisher, and then attached poems to the collections of maxims because this seemed a convenient way to dispose of two available, andas yetunpublished,poems. Where the Wanderjahre can be said to end is consequently such a vexed issue that the two most widely-used scholarly editions of Goethe's workshave decided thematterdifferently? And ifthe border or frame of the text remains uncertain, the content, or what one chooses to count as "content," has proved impossible to pin down tonally or thematically, even (or especially) when the content has a political cast. Later I shall examine more closely the "Bund" with which WIlhelm becomes involved in the text's third book; for the moment I would like to note that while, on the one hand, this organization's announced program offers the twentieth-century reader all the sinister touchstones of organicist politics (the League will tolerate no Jews, since they repudiate the "Ursprung und Herkommen" of "hochsten Kultur" [405]),8 on the other hand, the League's proposed legislation is so elastically cranky that at one point we are told by one of the group's two charismatic leaders that the new community will forbid thebeatingofdrumsandtheringing of bells (406). W. H. Bruford understandably comments that"it is hard to know how much of all this the author expects us to take seriously" (103): there is a hint of Groucho Marx's Freedonia to a political vision that we also have every reason to han

dle with care.f

These large obstacles to interpretation have notprevented the emergence ofa considerable body of secondary literature on Wdhe1m Meisters Wanderjahre, and we may take a first step toward a reading of the role ofaesthetics in this novel by noting the way in which the text's unruly shape and tone has tended to be aestheticized in the critical tradition, subsequent to the professionalization of literary studies and the hypercanonization of Goethe in the German academy. As in thecase ofthe omnibus texts of the modernist period to which Goethe'slate workis often compared,critics have frequently sought a unifyingprinciple for the Wanderjahre's heterogeneity in notions of "symbolic" narrative.l" Appeal is often made to Goethe's famous defmition of the symbol: "Die Symbolik verwandelt die Erscheinung in Idee, die Idee in ein Bild, und so, daB die Idee im Bild immer unendlich wirksam und unerreichbar bleibt und, selbst in allen Sprachen ausgesprochen, doch unaussprechlich bliebe" (HA 12, 470-71). Once identified as "symbolic,"the Wanderjahre's heterogeneity canbe turned into aparadoxicalgroundofidentity,to the extent that the gap between signifier and signified-the "unreachableness" of the idea-scan become a transcendental signified, the signifier of the totality of an inexpressible world. Thus, Goethe wrote,

Mit solchem Biichlein aber ist es wie mit dem Leben selbst: es findet sich in dem Complex des Ganzen Nothwendiges und Zufalliges, Vorgesetztes und Angeschlossenes, bald gelungen, bald vereitelt, wodurch es eine Art von Unendlichkeit erhalt, die sich in verstandige und verniinftige Worte nicht durchaus fassen noch einschlie13en lii13t.11

The uncertain borders of the text become a sign ofthis endlessness, and the ambiguous difference between seriousness and play in the text's tonal and thematic registers becomes the mark of an obscuritas that EhrhardBahr,in aninfluentialstudyofGoethe's late style, calls irony:

In various ways, the Wanderjahre proposes connections between the symbol's transcendental unknowability or obscurity and the operations effected by technical knowledge. This occurs most famously in and around the story of the little Kiistchen. discovered early in the narrative by Wilhelm's son Felix. Since the casket is "nicht groBer als ein kleiner Oktavband" (43), and since its contents remain unknown throughout the novel, critics have understandably tended to interpret this mysterious Kiistchen. as a figure for the text itself as symbol. Associated with subterranean mystery-Felix discovers it in a cave-the casket is "bedeutend" (458) precisely because it remains a "Ratsel" or "Geheimnis," both for us and for the text's characters.lf The casket's story, furthermore, unfolds as an allegory of the defmition of the symbol as the gathering of "disparate elements" into a unity. Early on in the novel, Wilhelm deposits the casket for safekeeping with a professional collector who warns him against forcing it open: "Denn wenn Sie gliicklich geboren sind und wenn dieses Kastchen etwas bedeutet, so mull sich gelegentlich der Schliissel dazu finden, und gerade da, wo Sie ibn am wenigsten erwarlen" (146-47). And the collector tells an exemplary story ofanivory crucifix, a fragment when he first acquired it, for which he has been able to recover the missing pieces-thearms, a portion ofthecross, and so on. (In this "gliickliches Zusammentreffen," he tells us, we recognize the destiny of the Christian religion, "die, oft genug zergliedert und zerstreut, sich doch endlich immerwiederamKreuze zusammenfinden muB"[147].) As any reader of novels might expect, the key to the casket is eventually found. However, when the impulsive Felix inserts it into the lock, it breaks into two pieces-literalizing the etymology of"symbol," and in the process reconfirming the symbolon's transcendentalresistanceto decoding. The casket's contents thus remain a mystery, but we do shortly learn something else: first, that a skilled craftsman can in fact unlock a symbol, and second, that one of the secrets to being a skilled craftsmanis theskillofkeepingsecretssecret. In the wake of Felix's misguided attempt to possess the casket's meaning, a jewelerdemonstrates that the two pieces of the key are "magnetisch verbunden," and "schlieJ3en nur dem Eingeweihten"; then, rather as though the key were an electronic door-opener, "der Mann tritt in einige Entfemung, das Kastchen springt auf, das er gleich wieder zudruckt: an solche Geheimnisse sei nicht gut riihren, meinte er" (458).

The symbol, by definition, is a gathering of itself unto itself, as exemplified by the recovery of the "dismembered and scattered" limbs ofa holy body or icon. The role of the technician in this transcendental economy may be less obvious, but is certainly also of ancient provenance. Magic is practical knowledge, techne, and the jeweler a savant in the Masonic and hermetic tradition: a technicianwhose craftpresents itself as both pragmatic and esoteric. The jeweler's antics are sufficiently exaggerated that, as so often in the Wanderjahre, it is hard to know how much "the author expects us to take seriously"; but this undecidably valorized scenario nonetheless dramatizesa relationbetweentechnics and renunciation central to the Wanderjahre. Technics is knowledge derived from the renunciation of knowledge, and this renunciation of knowledge links technical prowess to the transcendental unknowability of the symbol. The symbol turns out to be a pragmatic principle, as Goethe's definition of it as "wirksam und unerreichbar" suggests. And as we shall see, the symbol's melange ofsecrecy,technics, andformaltotalization acquires political clout through the valorizationofa pragmaticaesthetic, which

the text calls Handwerk.


An emphasis on pragmatic knowledge characterizes the various utopic (or mockutopic) communities that Wzlhelm Meisters Wanderjahre either portrays or has its characters describe or theorize, particularly the "Bund" mentioned earlier. The Bund, an organization charged with the founding ofutopic communities in both the New and the Old worlds, is the new name and identity ofthe Turmgesellschaft ofWuhelm Meisters Lehrjahre-a pseudo-Masonic secret society that, in the Lehrjahre, has nothing better to do than to watch over and manipulate Wilhelm's life behind the scenes, until, hisBildung complete, he is fit to enter its ranks. The transformation of this Society into a colonizing venture would thuscertainlyseemtomarkanexplicitpoliticization ofthe ends ofBildung: a politicization linked in tumwith the question concerning technics. Generally, though not always, the League, in good Romanticagrarian fashion, is opposed to technology but celebratory oftechne, "dem Maschinenwesen weniger giinstig als der unmittelbarenHandarbeit, wowirKraftund Gefiihl in Verbindung ausuben" (337). The group's members, consequently, are idealized Handwerker, while its leaders-and its financial backing-are of aristocratic origin.

Thus consistently, ifironically, the text's characters and narrators propose Handwerk as a value.P' Lenardo and Odoard's vision of their Bund gives overt political shape to an idealization of craft that we have already seen at work (or play) in the encounterofthejewelerandthecasket, and which particularly marks the plot line featuring Wilhelm Meister. Within this narrative strand,Handwerk represents the effect or outcome of the "Entsagung" characterizing true Bildung. When WIlhelm asks the Collector to whom he has consigned the mysterious casket to advise him where he might consign his son, the Collector recommends the Pedagogical Province as a place where students receive a limited, technical, and thus genuine education:

Allem Leben, allem 'fun, aller Kunst muJ3 das Handwerk vorausgehen, welches nur in der Beschriinkung erworben wird. Eines recht wissen und ausiiben gibt hohere Bildung als Halbheit im Hundertfiiltigen. Da, wo ich Sie hinweise, hat man alle Tatigkeiten gesondert ... (148)

And the father, like the son, will undergo Bildung underthe aegis oftechnics:indeed, while Felix's training in the Pedagogical Province turns out to be considerably less focusedandeffectivethanthe Collector'saccount might suggest,14WIlhelm'seducation will discover its ultimate rationale in his assumptionofthe manualtradeofsurgeon-a profession nearly as distant from the middle-class norms of the day as carpentry or weavingwouldbe. In theLehrjahre Wilhelm had had to renounce the possibilities for Bildung that the theatre had seemed to represent-the proto-bohemianhope ofcapturing aristocratic well-roundedness through the protean grace of the actor; now, in the 1829 Wanderjahre, he must renounce not just aristocratic pretension, but also bourgeoisdilettantism. In itself, WIlhelm'sseeminglossofsocialprestigeholds limitedinterest, since on this point the Wanderjahre is as cheerily unrealistic as the Lehrjahre had been in casually betrothing its middle-class hero to an aristocrat, Nathalie, in its final chapters. In the symbolic universe of the Meister cycle,WIlhelm'sderogation is not an appreciably material sacrifice in anyone's eyes, least of all WIlhelm's. However, if the "Entsagung" at work in the "Beschrankung" that is Handwerk lacks socioeconomic consequence, it does have a fundamental relation to the political, and more specifically to the politics of aesthetics as pragmatism-a pragmatism that claims to overcome the problem oftrothby declaringit unavailable. As Clark Muenzer writes in a fine recent study of the figure of techne in Goethe's thought, one can "reject self-presence as a delusion"(141), bracket the question oftruth

or reference, and pass on to practical matters. The gesture is a familiar one in postRomantic thought, and frequently appears in both academic and popular circles in the form of arguments or manifestos "against theory."15 Goethe's novel, however, demonstrates that such pragmatism is finally an exacerbated aestheticism.

Ifthe aesthetic, in its post-Kantian formulation, brackets meaning in order to recuperate meaning as form, a pragmatized aesthetic reiterates this gesture to the second power. Meaning is sacrificed so as to be reborn as meaning-as-action, the "doing"of meaning. The aestheticism and the totalizing ambition of technical pragmatism are spelled out early in the Wanderjahre when WIlhelm's oldfriend Jarno delivers a speech on the virtues ofspecialization so eloquent that Wilhelm makes his decision to become a surgeon upon hearing it:

Sich auf ein Handwerk zu beschriinken, ist das Beste. FUr den geringsten Kopf wird es immer ein Handwerk, fUrden besseren eine Kunst, und der beste, wenn er eins tut, tut er alles, oder, urn weniger pamdox zu sein, in dem einen, was er recht tut, sieht er das Gleichnis von allem, was recht getan wird. (37)

The seductive power of the trope of Handwerk as renunciation is both exemplified and analyzed in this passage: the figure is persuasive because it mingles the steely resolve of renunciation with the luxury of recompense. Art has not really been renounced at all, since it returns as the universality of that which has been "recht getan." Atthesametime,thetotalizingmirage ofKunst has been projected onto the world: WIlhelm will cut bodies instead of staging representations as he did in the Lehrjahre, and the Society of the Thwer will build colonies instead of manipulating private lives, which is to say that any instabilityinherent in the aesthetic system will now have increased opportunity to work itself out on a political level Thus, the elements in the Lehrjahre's narrative of renunciation undergo pragmatic intensification in the Wanderjahre's. If the previous novel moves Wilhelm toward a renunciation ofthe aesthetic lure of the theatre, the Wanderjahre ironically allows its League to risk philistinism by having it toy with a literal renunciation of art itself. The Bund's artists, we learn at one point, will be obtained from the Pedagogical Province-where they have been properly trained in the ethos of corporate art-buteven so, the Bund will accept "very few":"DieKunste sinddasSalz derErde; wie dieses zu den Speisen, soverhalten sichjene zu der Technik. WITnehmen von der Kunst nicht mehr auf als nur, daB das Handwerk nicht abgeschmackt werde" (242).

We may now step back and begin to resurvey the terrain ofaestheticsinthe Wanderjahre, since, as these words of the Abbe suggest, thehyper-aestheticofpragmatism raises the specter of curiously specific aesthetic problems. As soon as Handwerk becomesthe epitome ofthe aesthetic, another sort of epitome, Kunst, appears as a force needing to be controlled-but also as a homeopathic cure for a Handwerk inexplicably threatened with being"abgeschmackt." A sense of the tensions at play in the aesthetic of Handwerk emerges in Odoard's speech to the League late in the text. On the one hand, handicraft and art share a profound identity, while on the other, they need to be sharply distinguished: "Sobald wir jenen bezeichneten Boden betreten, werdendie Handwerke sogleichfurKunste erklart, und durch die Bezeichnung'strenge Kunste' von den 'freien' entschieden getrennt und abgesondert" (411). And in fact, handicraft must give the exemple to art ("zum Muster dienen"), since in Handwerk more is at stake:

"Sehen wir die sogenannten freien Kiinste an, die doch eigentlich in einem hoheren Sinne zu nehmen und zu nennen sind, so findet man, da13 es ganz gleichgiiltigist, ob sie gut oder schlecht betrieben werden. Die schlechteste Statue steht auf ihren Fill3en wie die beste, eine gemalte Figur schreitet mit verzeichneten Fi.i13en gar munter vorwarts, ihre millgestalteten Arme greifen gar kriiftig zu, die Figuren stehen nicht auf dem richtigen Plan, und der Boden fallt deswegen nicht zusammen. Bei der Musik ist es noch auffallender; die gellende Fiedel einer Dorfschenke erregt die wackern Gliederaufs kriiftigste, und wir haben die unschicklichsten Kirchenmusiken gehort, bei denen der Glaubige sich erbaute." (412)

IfKunst had earlier been seen as mere salt to the food ofHandwerk, here the free arts are relegated to an even more tenuous supplementarity: inessential in comparison to the "rigorous arts," they have now also become the locus of a potential tastelessness, thestatusofwhichis somewhatpeculiar.On the one hand, the "free arts" are subject to degeneracypreciselybecause theyare referentiallyfree: the floor does not cave inunder the impactofmisdrawnfiguresbecausethey have no power to negate the real. On the otherhand, art's irresponsibility does not in the least seem to preclude its having effects upon the real: the ugly statue stands, the misdrawn figure gestures, the screeching fiddle "stirsstoutlimbsmostpowerfully,"and the abominable church music "edifies" believers. Free art is not any less effective for being either non-referential or badly constructed. In fact, as the passage's repeated invocations of force, Kraft, suggests, art's performative powermightbe all the greater for being indifferent to referential and formal constraints.If

Ifthe "free" and the "rigorous" arts are both tributaries of Kunst, the degeneracy of the former is possibly the visible sign of a disease hiddeninthelatter. The transcendental and pragmatic order of the symbol, in other words, mightbe animated by a referential force irreducible to the world of meaning it produces.l? The secret that the jeweler resecretes in the casket is perhaps best left undisturbed for this reason, but perhaps also for this reason it is inhabited and constituted by disturbance. Neither the jeweler nor anyone else can allow the symbol to rest embalmed in its Kiistchen, any more than pragmatism can keep from reiteratingthe ambitions and difficulties of the metaphysics it abjures. Wzlhe1m Meisters Wanderjahre takes up this problem most visibly in the orbit ofits master-trope ofHandwerk, surgery.


IfHandwerk, as limitation, is the privileged trope ofEntsagung, surgery renders the essence of Handwerk-as-Entsagung, bothinitsetymology(the Greekroot, kheirourgia, translates literally as "handwork" [kheir + erg]) and in its dialectical figure of thecutthatheals.18Appropriately, a scene ofsurgery grants enough formal and metaphysical incisiveness to one of the Wander

jahre's numerous formal borders that Eric Blackall unhesitatingly, and understandably, refers to this episode as "the real ending of the novel" (259). In the last chapter before the epigram collection, Wilhelm and Felixreenterthe narrative line (from which they have been absent for some time): thanks to his surgical know-how, WIlhelm saves his son's life after Felix tumbles into a river. Wilhelm thereby not only raises his son from apparent death ("kein Zeichendes Lebens" remains when Felix is pulled out of the water [459]), but also bandages the wound that had created his desire to be a surgeon in the first place-for, ifwe believe what Wilhelm tells his fiancee Nathalie at the end of Book II, he first acquired this desireafterlosinga childhoodfriend, whose death by drowning might have been averted ifthere had been a surgeon available to bleed the recovered body. In closing off the Meister plot, the Wanderjahre thus stages a therapeuticrepetition: the father's knife heals the son, thereby healing the father. The religious and psychoanalytic intertexts which inevitably come to mind reinforce a figurative structure that the novel has built withconsiderable care. Surgeryis the handwork of handwork, the renunciation ofrenunciation: itscastratingcutseals the symbolic order, drawing the sting of time and death, healing past wounds in a present that excises all loss.

However, if surgery is the epitome of aesthetic Handwerk it is also the locus of corruption: a hyperbolicallyabgeschmackte versionofFelix'sresurrectionunfoldsinthe third chapter of the Wanderjahre's third book as WIlhelm recounts the story of his surgical education to members of the League. Wilhelm's narrative, which occupies most ofthe chapter and is what Bernd Peschken has in mind when he calls this chapter one of the most enigmatic ("ratse1hafteri") of the novel (119), tells the tale of a problem and its solution, both possessing an element of the bizarre. When WIlhelm begins surgical training he discovers its "Grundstudium" to consist in the art ofdissection [Zergliederungskunst], and also fmds out that the pragmatic bent of this paradoxical Bildung-through-Zergliederung has violent, even anarchic consequences. The cadavers required by the medical school are in short enough supply to inspire both state-sponsored and individual acts of terror, which in turn generates tension between the people and the state: "Solche, wo nichthinreichend,dochin moglichsterZahl zu verschaffen, hatte man harte Gesetze ergehen lassen, nicht allein Verbrecher, die ihr Individuum in jedem Sinne verwirkt, sondern auch andere korperlich, geistig verwahrloste Umgekommene wurden in Anspruch genommen" (323). Simultaneously,grave-robbingflourishes, to thepoint thatthebodyofthepolis itselfseemsatthe point of dismemberment: "Immer weiter aber stieg das Ubel ... Kein Alter, keine Wfude, weder Hohes noch Niedriges war in seiner Ruhestatte mehr sicher..." (323). Indeed, we learn later in WIlhelm's story that"indieserStadt ... mangemordetjhat], um den dringenden, gut bezahlenden Anatomen einen Gegenstand zu verschaffen" (333). The motive force of this legal and illegal industry is the pragmatic thrust of surgical Bildung:

... junge Manner, die mit Aufinerksamkeit den Lehrvortrag gehort, sich auch mit Hand und Auge von dem hisher Gesehenen und Vernommenen iiberzeugen und sich die so notwendige Kenntnis immer tiefer und lehendiger der Einhildungskraft iiberliefern wallten. (324)

Education generates an "unnatural" and socially disruptive cognitive desire: "In solchen Augenblicken entsteht eine Art von unnatiirlichem wissenschaftlichen Hunger, welcher nach der widerwartigsten Befriedigungwie nach dem Anmutigstenund Notwendigsten zu begehren aufregt" (324).

This phase in WIlhelm's story reaches a climax when "ein sehr schones Madchen," believing herselfjilted by her lover, drowns herself; to the consternation ofthe city, she is handed over to the anatomists by the authorities, "die soeben das Gesetz gescharft hatten, durften keine Ausnahme bewilligen." Wilhelm is given her severed ann to dissect, and he balks at the idea of "dieses herrliche Naturerzeugnis noch weiter zu entstellen" (325). A sculptor, a mysterious figure whom the medical students frequently see at their lectures, notices Wilhelm's moral dilemma and invites him home to his studio, where, as it turns out, thesculptoruseshisKunst to teach the Handwerk of surgery by substituting wax and wooden models for bodies. Despite the "grosse Kluft zwischen diesen kunstlerischenArbeitenund denwissenschaftlichen Bestrebungen von denen sie herkamen" (326), WIlhelm is persuaded of their utility-and he finds out that in this the Bund is ahead ofhim: Lothario andhiscolleagues have already made plans to ship the sculptor's models to theirutopic colony in America (328).19

The emergence of W"lSsenschaft as the ground ofHandwerk is not in itselfsurprising: as "rigorous art," Handwerk, unlike "free art,"Kunst, must be epistemologically reliable. But since this reliability turns into a referential disease, free art stages a paradoxical return as "plastic anatomy," which offers to contain the referentialdrive ofWzssenschaft within the frame of the aesthetic while anchoring knowledge to the world. The aesthetic is to heal the aesthetic in a homeopathic cure, as Kunst prevents Handuierk from becoming abgeschmackt. We may expect this solution to be a fragile one, since we have seen that Kunst is also possessed of unreliable referential power; and inded, complications emerge as the Bildhauer sums up the difference between old-fashioneddissectionandhis new plastic anatomy, in a phrase often taken to be the moral of the entire chapter: "Aufbauen mehr belehrt als Einreissen, Verbinden mehr als Trennen, Totes beleben mehr als dasGetotetenoch weitertoten"(326).20The maxim moves from the cleanly structured antonyms ofbuilding and destroying, binding and severing, to a counterintuitive opposition and semi-chiasmus: where one mighthaveexpected"giving life to the dead" to oppose "killingthe living," the text rather insists that dissection be thought as "das Getotete noch weiter toten." And since the opposition is betweengivinglife to the dead andkillingthe dead, theword"tot"becomes a defaced residue within this tropological structure, inhabiting and enabling the opposition without being assimilable to it. 1b be dead, in this Gothic fiction, is not to be so dead that one cannot continue to die.

The disfiguring figure "das Getotete noch weiter toten" (echoed when WIlhelm, confronted with the beautiful female arm, hesitates "dieses herrliche Naturerzeugnis noch weiter zu entstellen") sums up the essential (il)logic of dissection, as becomes clear when we examine more closely the politicalimpact ofthis "unnaturlichem wissenschaftlichen Hunger." As an approach to thequestionofwhatdissectionis,we may ask what law is in this story. A negative definition emerges immediately: Verbrecher are those who have "ihrIndividuum in jedem Sinne verwirkt." Law is the generality of a social contract within which individuality is defined; lawbreakers lose their individuality in the very act ofbreakingthe law. Simultaneously, the law presents itself as a generality oriented toward the future possibility of particular application in the modeofviolence: in thissense,capital punishment would seem the essence of legal referentiality, since when the law refers, it does soby obliteratingtheparticularas particular in relation to the whole. Law would thus essentially be the law of death. However, a closerlook reveals that criminals, in becoming criminals, have "forfeited their individuality" through their own agency; in essence thecriminalis a suicide, andcapital punishment merely a literalization of the lawbreaker's self-annihilation. Thus, the "harsh laws" that criminalize suicide are merely reflexive intensifications of ordinary laws. Criminals and suicides are the most extreme sort of Entsagenden from a legal perspective; what the law punishes is in factdeathitself-death, thatis, understood as theself-consumptionoftheindividualin an ultimate act of freedom. The "harsh laws" reveal that the law obtains no referential grip via capital punishment, and that, insofarasitwishes to have referential purchase, law must be dissection. For suicides cankill themselves butcannot dissect themselves: only through Zergliederung can thelaw inscribe itselfon the world.21

The "dead" excess or excessive death (as "Zergliederung," as "das Getotete noch weiter toten"), which inhabits and disrupts the binary opposition ofdeath and life, representsthe symbol's inabilityto bracketreference and thus guarantee itselfas a transcendentalframe-the frame withinwhich the pragmatic work of symbolic exchange would safely occur. The pragmatic need to "verify with hand and eye" generates both law and the violation of law, such that, as in the Chancellor's speech in Faust, "Das Ungesetz gesetzlich uberwaltet/ Und eine Welt des Irrtumssichentfaltet"(llA 3: 151). However, ifdissection is excessively referential, it is also excessively formal: a mechanical iteration performed on body after body, an act of memorization rather than learning, but a memorization which endlessly memorizes the same thing.22 "Jeder Arzt," WIlhelm sums up near the end ofhis narrative, "... ist nichts ohne die genauste Kenntnis der aufern und innern Glieder des Menschen ... Taglich soIl der Arzt, dem es Ernst ist, in der Wiederholung dieses Wissens, dieses Anschauens, sich uben ..." (331). In the service of this constant need to re-member through dismemberment, doctors will hire anatomists, and the disaster of which we know will unfold:

"Je mehr man dies einsehen wird, je lebhafter, heftiger, leidenschaftlicher wird das Studium der Zergliederung getrieben werden. Aber in eben dem Malle werden sich die Mittel vermindern; die Gegenstande, die Kerper, auf die solche Studien zu griinden sind, sie werden fehlen, seltener, teurer werden, und ein wahrhafter Konflikt zwischen Lebendigen und Toten wird entstehen ... Dieser Konflikt, den ich ankiindige zwischen Toten und Lebendigen, er wird auf Leben und Tod gehen; man wird erschrecken, man wird untersuchen, Gesetze zu geben und nichts ausrichten." (332)

It is in the wake of these comments that WIlhelm delivers his memorable and muchquoted imperative that"wasjetzo Kunst ist, muB Handwerk werden, was im Besondern geschieht, mull im Allgemeinen moglich werden"(332).Butwenowseethatthispragmaticist formalism emerges out ofa violent proliferation of referential declarations. If the lopsided chiasmus of"das Getotete noch weiter Wten" registered an excess of death, here there appears to be such an excess of life thatthe dead themselves cannotdie. For whether one calls this endless residue "life" or "death" is indifferent, since as a trope for tropological residue either term is a catachresis.

Becausedissectionis theBildungofsurgery, the transcendental and pragmatic secret of the symbol may be said to emerge out of the referential predicament which dissection exemplifies. Thus, throughout WIlhelm's story, the Bildhauer willbe associated with the symbol's secrecy-and its guilty conscience. We learn among other things that when the Bildhauer was an anatomy student he knowingly received a murdered corpse: "wir sahen vor uns hin und schwiegenund gingenans Geschaft.Und dies ist's, mein Freund, was mich zwischen Wachs und Gips gebannt hat; dies ist's, wasgewiB auchSie beiderKunstfesthalten wird ..." (333). No one knows much about this Bildhauer except that he is a sculptor (though possibly also a "Goldmacher"); much ofhishouseis closed to visitors, and so on-and the narrative never seriously tries to explain why. We are told that that plastic anatomy must be pursued "im tiefsten Geheimnis," yet for reasons slender enough to seem secretive themselves: "denn Sie haben gewiB oft schon Manner vom Fach mit Geringschatzung davon redenhoren" (326). Notonly are anatomical models to be distributed "im stillen," but in a strange turn of phrase the Bildhauer sets forth the pedagogical ambitions of plastic anatomy in terms reminiscentofgraverobbingor worse: "Es muBeine Schule geben ... das Lebendige mull man ergreifen und uben, aber im stillen " (328). Itis inevitable that the plastic anatomist comes to resemble Burke and Hare, forHanduierk is theexcess oflaw, anexcess which the law in part recuperates as guilt, secrecy, and the symbol.23


The recuperation of dissection's excess can only be partial and temporary, for reasons we have elaborated:ifbothKunst and Handuierk exploit, conceal, and suffer the effects ofa referentiallyunreliablereferential force, the homeopathic cure of the one through the other is doomed to fail. Thus, plastic anatomy cannot prevent the return of dissection: as the Bildhauer explains to WIlhelm, theBund's New World colony will also be a stategearedtowardtheproduction of corpses. Criminals will once again provide the raw material:

"Damit man aber nicht glaube," sagte der Meister, "dal3 wir uns von der Natur ausschlieJ3en und sie verleugnen wollen, so eroffnen wir erne frische Aussicht. Driiben tiber dem Meere, wo gewisse menschenwiirdige Gesinnungen sich immerfortsteigem, muJ3 man endlich bei Abschaffung der 'Ibdesstrafe weitlaufige Kastelle, ummauerte Bezirke bauen, um den ruhigen BUrgergegenVerbrechen zu schiitzen und das Verbrechen nicht straflos walten und wirken zu lassen. Dart, mein Freund, in diesen traurigen Bezirken, lassen Sie uns dem Askulap erne Kapelle vorbehalten, dart, so abgesondert wie die Strafe selbst, werde unser Wissen immerfort an solchen Gegenstiinden erfrischt, deren Zerstiickelung unser menschliches Geftihl nichtverletze, bei deren Anblick uns nicht, wie es Ihnen bei jenem schonen, unschuldigen Arm erging, das Messer in der Hand stockte und alle W1Bbegierdevor dem Gefuhl der Menschlichkeit ausgeloscht werde." (330)

Whether this carceral humanism represents an ethical advance over the ancien regime's Gothic crueltyis perhapsuncertain; nordoes the Wanderjahre's ironic treatment of its "utopias" encourage easy answers. A political critique nonetheless emerges from the rhetoricalcritique to the extentthatthis latter uncovers and dissects the story ofthe aestheticization ofthe political. As the state becomes more absolute in its claim to mimic and complete nature's harmony; to absorb into its techne the self-sufficiency ofphysis, its violence must take unacknowledged and thus always potentially more violent form, The state's laws no longer deal death; yet since these laws nonetheless have inscriptive, dissective force, the objects oflegal violence must be all the more obsessively effaced. Incarceration, like plastic anatomy, seeks to draw a frame around the uncontrollableproliferationofdissection; in nocase can dissection be halted, but one can hope for various practical, ifalways uncertain effects. Here, for instance, the state can hope that neither the Yolk nor the occasional anatomistwillrise toprotestthe obliteration ofPersonlichkeit, since the objects ofviolence have been violently denied membership in thecategoryofthe"human"which imprisons and dissects them. They cannot die because they are not properly alive (that is, human) to begin with. The text has revealed this deathlessness to be a general predicament, that oflanguage itself; butin theBildhauer's brave new world this endless dying will be repressed and its recurrence quarantined.

It is thus as a rhetorical allegory that Wzlhe1m Meisters Wanderjahre offers a critique of the Aesthetic State. Though violence, and the violent effacement of violence, are certainly in no way specific to aesthetic humanism, the residue of a humanist universe takes deformed form as the in-or non-human, the human that is not human: more animal than human, but more inanimate than animal, since even animals are potentially alive and possibly even able to die. The criminals in the Bildhauer's fantasy are the defaced repetition of the anatomical models, repeating humanism's repressed instability in the mode of inhumanity.24 They are still being treated as useful pedagogical objects, ratherthansimplybeing"treated,"like vermin or waste products, for this Aesthetic State is not yet an extermination camp. Yet withouthyperbole,anachronism, oranynotion of a German "destiny," one can and must read the operation of a certain exterminatinglogicin thisnarrative,alogic that the Wanderjahre critiques, or, in the figurative vocabulary ofthis text, dissects. The rationalist and utilitarian consumption of the in-human is a false ingestion, since these criminals are the excess of the very pragmatism that exploits them. In its extremity the Aesthetic State can only turn to more and more savagely displaced repetitions ofits own disarticulation, and at the limit of its destructive course will need to obliterate its non-humans with the formal, mechanical violence of a purposeless, bureaucratic, technological operation--earried out "im tiefsten Geheimnis," in "ummauerte Bezirke." It should be emphasized that the ominousness of such tropes is in one sense profoundly false. The unspeakable oftheHolocaustdoesnot speakinthis text; nor does the Wanderjahre "predict" Nazism. It is ratherin destroying such aesthetic models of history as revelation and destination that this text offers a certain insight into the political aestheticism that Lacoue-Labarthe, at least, is willing to call the "real, or profound, nature of Nazism" (53): an aestheticism that is always also a "humanism" to the extent thatthe "human" represents the Subject's self-productive incarnation.25

Lacoue-Labarthe achieves his reading of the Nazis' technical, bureaucratic program of extermination as "the useless residueoftheWesternideaofart,thatisto say, oftechne"(46) through a reading ofHeidegger; and we can close our present attempt to think the politics ofaesthetics by returningto the question oftechnology asHeidegger asks it, and as the Wanderjahre allows it to be read. Heidegger, we recall, opposes the bringingforth of'poiesis to the "Herausfordem" of modem technology, which "an die Natur das Ansinnen ste11t, Energie zu liefern, die als solche herausgefordert und gespeichert weden kann" ("Frage" 22). The violence inherent in modern technology's mode of revealing lies not simply in its aggressive procedures ofextraction, butin the fact that it extracts so as to store or stockpile: every technological action or object is for the sake of something else. Consequently, there is no object in the technological universe, but only "standing reserve," Bestand. Similarly, there is no "subject" of technology; however, since technology conceals its own essence by concealing"revealing" (aletheia) itself, humanity is led to imagine itself a subject in control of technology. Technology thus presents itself as metaphysics-the metaphysics of the subject-at the same time that it threatens to transform everything, not excluding humanity, into Bestand.

Heidegger calls the "herausfordemden Anspruch" which gathers man to modem technology "Ge-stell," a word he ventures "in einem bisher vollig ungewohnten Sinne zu gebrauchen":

Nach der gewohnliehen Bedeutung meint das Wort "Gestell" ein Gemt, z. B. ein Biichergestell. Gestell heil3t auch ein Rnochengerippe. Und so schaurig wie dieses scheint die uns jetzt zugemutete Verwendung des Wortes "Gestell" zu sein, ganz zu schweigen von der Willkiir, mit der so Worte der gewachsenen Sprache mil3handelt werden. Kann man das Absonderlichkeit noch weiter treiben? GewiI3nicht. Allein dieses Absonderliche ist alter Brauch des Denkens. ("Frage" 27)

Compared with Plato's violent reappropriation of the word eidos, Heidegger concludes, his own "gewagter Gebrauch" of the word "Gestell" is "beinahe hannlos" ("Frage" 28). Heidegger says no more in this vein; but if his "eerie" "mishandling" of the word "Gestell" is "almost harmless," which is also of course to assert thatitmightbenonetheless ever so slightly harmful, this is perhaps because what Heidegger has named as the essence of modem technology bears a resemblance to language as a general rhetoric.26 Language, in the Aristotelian tradition that Heidegger recalls and rewrites here, is techne in the highest sense-the essence of the human, and the completion ofnature as physis-but the thought of'poiesis cannotexhaust the problem of language, as Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre has confirmed. And the violentslippage withwhich, accordingto Heidegger, "language and thought" occur, bearsa greater resemblance to Gestell than to poiesis.

In elaborating Ge-stell as an endless, mechanical dissection, Wzlhelm Meisters Wanderjahre confirms the linguistic character ofHeidegger's insight. Dissection is a killing machine that is equally an animating machine, precisely because it can never fmishkillingwhatitkills. Ittherebyfigures an uncontrollable figurative process that dismembers yet also produces the symbol's divine corpse, exceeding and ruining the instances of reference it enables. Dissection, in this allegory, is Bildung as the construction and deconstruction ofthe Glieder which make bodies possible, including textual and political bodies. Commenting on its own irreducibility to the symbolic totalities it encourages, Wzlhelm Meisters Wanderjahre diagnoses the violence of the Aesthetic State as the effect of a technicity which proves all the more haunting when this violence itselfis aestheticized as pragmatism. In consequence, the possibility of cultural critique becomes paradoxically inseparable from that of the rigorously technicallinguistic performances we call literature.


IFor a recent sociological account of the emergence of aesthetics in eighteenth-century Germany, see Woodmansee, and for an incisive definition of the project of cultural critique, see JanMohammed and Lloyd.

2For a useful history of the notion of the "aestheticstate," see Chytry, esp. pp. xxxi-lxxiv.

31offer a briefversionofmy understanding of the value ofHeidegger's thinking about technology at the end of the present essay. LacoueLabarthe's somewhat different-and to be sure, far more thorough-analysis sees significant continuities and differences between Heidegger's employmentoftechne as knowledge or science (lWssen) in the Rektoratsrede (published as Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Uniuersitiii) and related texts of1933, and as arlin the "Ursprung des Kunstwerkes" in 1935. Heidegger's destruction of traditional aesthetics in favor of an understanding of art as techne allows one to understand the "essence" of Nazism as something at once proximate to, and very different from, Nazism: what Lacoue-Labarthe calls "national aestheticism," and which he analyzes as cited and described above. For a fuller discussion, see Lacoue-Labarthe 53-121.

4The first version of the Wanderjahre appearedin1821; a longerandextensivelyrewritten one appeared in 1829. The discussion presented here refers to the 1829 version; except where noted, I quote from volume 8 ofthe Hamburger Ausgabe, abbreviated where necessary asHA. TwoothereditionsofGoethe'sworkswill be cited occasionally in what follows: the "Artemis-Ausgabe," abbreviated as AA followed by volume and page number; and the "Weimarer Ausgabe," abbreviated as WA followed by section, volume, and page numbers.

5For a recent and particularly emphatic association of this novel with Schiller's Aesthetic State, see Chytry, especially 62. An account of the enthusiastic reception accorded the Wanderjahre in certain Young Hegelian and Proudhonian circles of the 1830s and 1840s may be found in Sagave.

6Cited in Bruford 88: see Bruford 226fffor a discussion of the political context of Mann's speech. Mann refers only to "Wilhelm Meister" and would seem to have both theLehrjahre and the Wanderjahre in mind, with the latter, as Bruford notes, providing the "political utopia."

7The editorial issue turns on whether or not to print the poems that Goethe attached to the maxim collections: the Artemis-Ausgabe prints them as part of the Wanderjahre, while the Hamburger Ausgabe, interpreting Goethe's final intentions differently, prints them with his collected poetry.

8Near the end of the Wanderjahre, the League members respond to a speech by one of their leaders with a song possessing the rather ominous refrain,"Heil dir FUhrer! Heil dir Band!" (413).

9Similar questions of tone or representational mode afIlict the Wanderjahre's portrayal of other utopic communities, most notably the Pedagogical Province, a fiefdom-sized boarding school into which Felix, Wilhelm's son, is deposited much against his will, and wherehe suffers theattentionsofaneducational system too bizarreand complex for summary, though see note 14 below.

lOSee, e.g., Blackall; Brown; David; and Neuhaus. Thegenericissues raisedby the Wanderjahre go far beyond the scope of this study. There has, for instance, been much discussion of the interpolated Novellen which account for more than two thirds of the narrative-though some of these narrative digressions are not technically Novellen, while, to make matters worse, the main narrative line itselfis at least as close in spirit to the Novelle as to the Roman, and soon.

llGoethe to Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, 23 November 1829 (WA rv46: 166). Comments of a similar nature appear in Goethe's correspondence in 1821 with regard to the first version of the Wanderjahre: see in particular letters to Sulpiz Boisseree, 23 July 1821 (WA rv 35: 3132) and to J.S. Zauper, 7 September 1821 (WA ~ 35: 73-77). It is also worth noting, however, that Goethe's commentson the Wanderjahre include many of the sort that Wanderjahre critics usually cite only in order to ignore, as when he described the text as a work undertaken only "zu dem Verband der disparatesten Einzelheiten" (Goethe to Rochlitz, 28 July 1829 [WA ~

46:27]).Variants ofthisphrasereappearinother letters of this period: see Goethe's letter of2 September 1829 to Boisseree (WA ~ 46: 66). Seealso Goethe's characterization ofthe text as anunsystematizable"Aggregat"ina letterto F. von Miiller, 18 February 1830 (AA 23: 667).

12See in particularPeschken; see also Baldwin for a rigorous discussion of the rhetorical problems raised by the "symbolic" Kiistchen, and a useful bibliography of the secondary criticism devoted to it.

13()n Goethe's ironization ofHandwerk see Armstrong, who focuses on the Wanderjahre's St. Joseph the Second episode in order to show that handicraft is persistently shadowed by anachrony and absurdity, and is thus by no means the reliable value it appears.

14Asnotedearlier, thePedagogicalProvince is not an easy institution to summarize. It places emphasis on authoritariancommunality and practical knowledge-the students sing in chorus while they work, are taught unquestioning respect for all forms of authority, learn languages while tendingtn agricultural chores, and so on. Felix does not appeartn emerge from this educational utopia with any particular skills. For discussions of the intellectual heritage and (uncertain) symbolism of the Province, see Brown 87-97, and Bruford 104-11.

158ee in particular the essays collected in Mitchell.

16The rhetoricians of the Bund speak a greatdealofpower[Krafi],andofsolutions that are pragmatic [tCitig] and practical [praktisch]: see, e.g., 405.

17Goethe's famous speculations on the "demonic" are worth recalling here: apart from the well-known passage inDichtung und Wahrheit (HA 10:175-76), see Eckermann's entriesfor 28 February and 2 March 1831, where he records Goethe's sense of the demonic as a "geheime problematische Gewalt" external to, but determinative of intention and meaning: "ich bin ihm unterwotfen" (402, 405). For a fine discussion ofthe demonic in relation to the secret of the casket in the Wanderjahre, see Baldwin 220-23.

18Themetaphysics ofthe hand are elaborated by Odoard in the speech cited earlier on the distinction between "free" and '<rigorous"arts (412-13). The question of the hand holds great interest for the question of technology in its Heideggerian inflection; and though I cannot develop this theme here, we might recall the importance Heidegger persistently grants the trope ofHandwerk, particularly in Was heisst Denken?: "[Das Denken] ist jedenfalls ein Hand-Werk. Mit der Hand hat es eigene Bewandtnis ... Nur ein Wesen, das spricht, d.h. denkt, kann die Hand haben und in der Handhabung Werke der Hand vollbringen" (51). For an important reading of this and other passages, see Derrida, "La main de Heidegger."

19Andindeed, the Bildhauer might even be said to have sold his scheme to the authorofthe Wanderjahre; Goethe promulgated the virtues of"plastische Anatomie" with urgency in an essay written a few months before he died, referring his reader back tn the "Halbfiction" ofWI1helm's reportage: see "Plastische Anatomie" (WA 11,49: 64-75, here 64). Goethe dated the essay 4 February 1832, and mailed it tn the StaatsratP.C. W.Beuthin Berlin, whereitmet with a polite butdefinitive rejection. The essay, an intriguing text in its own right, urges the adoptionofmedical models on grounds very close tn WIlhelm's. The persuasive force of'Wilhelm's curious narrative, one might say, ruptures the uncertain frame of "fiction" itself.

2oFor a reading of the chapter that takes this phrase as its moral, see Peschken 119-25.

21Paul de Man writes in a not unrelated context that a law is "more like an actual text than a piece of property or a State" (268).

22Comparethis with the countermythofmimesis, as represented by the Handwerk of plastic anatomy: "GebenSie zu, daf dergr013te Teil von Arzten und Wundarzten nur einen allgemeinen Eindruck des zergliederten menschlichen Korpers in Gedanken behalt und damit auszukommen glaubt, so werden gewiB solche Modelle hinreichen, die in seinem Geiste nach und nach erloschenden Bilder wieder anzufrischen und ihm gerade das Notige lebendig zu erhalten. Ja, es kommt aufNeigung und Liebhaberei an, so werden sich die zartesten Resultate der Zergliederungskunst nachbilden lassen. Leistet dies ja schon Zeichenfeder, Pinsel und Grabstichel" (328). The pressure of metaphors of inscription in this and other passages on memory and dissection in this chapter returns us to Jacques Derrida's discussion ofwriting and memory in the Phaedrus: see "Plato's Pharmacy," in Dissemination 61-171.

23(}oethe'sinterestin"plasticanatomy"was no doubtexacerbated, as he himselfsuggestsin his essay, by the Burke and Hare case and the publicity and the imitative crimesitgenerated, but his interest in the medical utility of sculpture goes backto his earlieststudiesofanatomy in 1781, as Trunz remarks in his notes to the Wanderjahre chapter (HA 8: 646-47). Goethe's biographer, Nicholas Boyle, has drawn my attention to a reference to a "wooden surrogate" that appears in Goethe's diary for 1807 in the context of the early plans for the Wanderjahre, which would lend additional specificity to Trunz's claim thatthe chapterdramatizes longstandingconcerns. Dr. Boyle confirms thatitis difficult to know whether the Burke and Hare case influenced the composition ofthis chapter. Burke was executed on the 28th of January 1829, and Goethe might easily have heard of the case through the French newspapers while he waswritingorrevisingchapter3,since Book III of the Wanderjahre was largely composed between September 1828 and the end of February1829, andits firsttwo-thirdswererevised in January. "It is therefore possible that knowledge of the trial of Burke and Hare had some influence on the formulation ofchapter3, specifically on the reference near the end ofthe chapter to 'newspaper articles' about <resurrection men,'" Dr. Boyle comments; however, "It strikes me as unlikely thatthe Burke and Hare affair was the sole inspiration for the idea of wax substitutes for cadavers," for the reasons givenabove. Furthermore, "thereis anundated schema for this chapter in the Weimar Edition apparatus which envisages a much more detailed motivation of the need for these SWTOgates, but which does not contain any obvious allusions to Burke and Hare" (letter of 27 March 1994).

24In the language of the Meister cycle the criminals are displaced puppets, since the anatomical models recall the marionettes that spark Wilhelm's interest in the theatre in lVilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Wilhelm's story of surgicalBildung is thusa repetitionofthetheatrical matrix of the Lehrjahre-to such an extent that he remarks at the outset ofhis narrative inchapterthree oftheWanderjahre that he actuallyisn'tlearninganything: "AufeinesonderbareWeise, welche niemand erraten wtirde, war ich schon in Kenntnis der menschlichen Gestaltweitvorgescluitten, und zwarwahrend Meiner theatralischen Laufbahn." On and behind the stage he has learned about the body's "aussem Thile,"and for some unexplained reason has also even gained "ein gewisses Vorgefiihl" of the "innern 'Thile" (323). Renunciation never quite works in the Meister cycle, and the theatrum anatomicum thus provides yet another version of the career that WIlhelm has had to give up. For an analysis of theatricality and Bildung in the Lehrjahre which examines the uncertain figurative status of WIlhelm's puppets, see Redfield.

25Because Nazism is a "humanism" in this sense, its violence takes place as a dehumanization, which is why the figure of the puppet occasionally appears in the rhetoric ofextermination. Claude Lanzmann'sShoah records that the extermination camp guards at Chelmno forced the Jews to refer to corpses as "Dreck" or "Figuren,"whichtranslates as"puppets"aswell as "shapes"or "figures ofspeech."(And Hannah Arendt, speaking both of and against such dehumanization,writesatone pointofthevictims of the death camps as "ghastly marionettes with human faces" [455].) For a discussion of this moment in Lanzmann's film, see Felman 204-83. It would be interesting in this context to analyze .the role of puppets in Hans-JUrgen Syberberg's Hitler: A Film from Germany (see especially 68-71, 106-14, 201-08).

26See Weber for a reading of "Die Frage nachder'Thchnik"whichdisintersa subtextin Heidegger's essay to this effect: "the unsettling effects oftechnics cannotbe considered to be an exclusive aspect of its peculiarly modem form. Rather, the danger associated with modem technics is-as Heidegger explicitly asserts-a consequence ofthe goings-onoftechnics assuch and in general as a movement of unsecuring" (985). ("Goings-on" is Weber's imaginative translation of "Wesen.")

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